Author's Note: So, I took a lot of artistic license with this story. But I liked it and I don't really care if you don't. However, feel free to express your like or dislike for this story via reviews. Flames are fine. I like my writing and know I'm not perfect, and at least a flame is something to read when I'm bored. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy it, because I like to think that I entertain someone…but I'm babbling and I'll let you get to the story. This is a one-shot.
Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto, but my own personal Asuma would be greatly appreciated.
Kurenai gripped the railing as Hinata's blood dripped to the ground. Her pupil had taken such a beating, the jounin couldn't believe she was still standing. Hinata had changed a lot during this exam. Kurenai just hoped she survived.
She remembered during their missions. Shino and Kiba were always taking the lead and Hinata made most of the mistakes. It crushed her.
Kurenai knew she would find Hinata here, here where she would train until she was exhausted. None of the rest of the team came here anymore, the place where Kurenai had first taught them to use their chakra to climb trees.
She could hear sobbing before she could see her student. Hinata had nearly been killed on their last mission and Kurenai had taken a kunai in the arm to save her. To Kurenai, it might only be a scratch, but to Hinata, it was disaster.
"Hinata," Kurenai said softly from a few feet from Hinata. Hinata's head shot up, her eyes seeking her sensei. They quickly dropped with shame. "I…I'm sorry, Kurenai-sensei."
Kurenai smiled slightly and squatted in front of Hinata, bringing Hinata's chin up with a finger. "It's okay, Hinata. People make mistakes and people make choices. You made a mistake. I made a choice. I would rather die than see my comrades hurt. That includes you."
"But…if I hadn't made a mistake, then you wouldn't have gotten hurt."
Kurenai dropped into a cross-legged position. "Hinata, listen to me. If anyone knows how you feel, I do. Do you know who I am?"
Hinata's white eyes stared at Kurenai. "No, Kurenai-sensei."
The jounin smirked, a little twist of her mouth, as if she'd tasted something bitter. "I am one of the First Hokage's granddaughters. My cousin is Tsunade-sama of the Legendary Sannin."
Hinata's eyes widened. "The First Hokage?"
Kurenai nodded. "I was the youngest child of the youngest son of the First Hokage. My brothers were very powerful. I…I was shy. I was ignored because I was not as powerful as my brothers or cousins. I was a lot like you, Hinata, except I had a temper. And I made mistakes. Bad ones at times." Kurenai's eyes darkened, remembering.
"But…you're so powerful, Kurenai-sama!" Hinata protested.
The older woman grinned suddenly and put an arm around Hinata. "And so are you, Hinata. Remember that."
Kurenai suddenly started out of her thoughts as her eyes focused on Hinata. I have never seen her with eyes like that before…
Her eyes were strong, defiant. This was not a part of Hinata that Kurenai, who knew her better than anyone else, had ever seen. Her hands tightened on the railing as Hinata ran towards Neji.
Neji easily dodged and his hand struck home.
Hinata screamed and she fell to the ground, blood spraying onto the stone floor.
Kurenai's grip loosened, slightly. She knew that Hinata couldn't have won.
"You don't understand anything," Neji said impassively. "From the beginning, your attacks have done nothing."
Hinata did not move. Kurenai leaned forward slightly. Was Hinata unconscious? Hinata, that's enough, she told Hinata silently. You may have lost, but you have changed. Great job.
I just hope you're okay.
"A deciding blow to the heart," Gai said softly. "I feel bad for her, but she will not get up again…" Kurenai had to agree.
Gekkou Hayate sighed. "Continuing is impossible and thus—"
"DON'T STOP!" a voice yelled. Kurenai's head swung around to look at the blonde genin. What was he talking about? His teammate was berating him, but Kurenai ignored her as she saw movement out of the corner of her eye.
Hinata was getting up.
Hinata was breathing heavily as she faced Kiba in practice matches that Kurenai was refereeing. Kiba was holding one arm gingerly, but other than that, he was in good shape. She seemed exhausted.
Kiba glanced at Kurenai, who gave him a nod. He raced towards Hinata, who tried to block. He landed a blow to her face and she flew back. Kiba slid to a stop as Hinata remained on the ground. Kurenai willed to her to get up.
But she didn't. She gave up.
Hinata was holding her chest and bent over slightly. Kurenai knew she was in excruciating pain. There was no way she couldn't be. Kurenai had faced a Hyuuga before. She knew what they were capable of.
"Why do you stand? If you keep pushing yourself, you'll die." Neji asked, his voice puzzled and disdainful.
Hinata's eyes trailed up to the balcony and Kurenai followed their path, her own red eyes landing on Naruto. He has inspired her.
The young genin's eyes focused back on Neji. "It's not over," she said, answering his question.
"Acting tough is useless. You can barely stand. I can see that," he said. Kurenai admired him in a way Hizashi, though you raised him with a spirit of hate towards the head family, you raised him to be honorable. He's giving Hinata plenty of chances to back out without getting further injury. Take it, Hinata. You've done well enough!
"From the time of your birth, the responsibility of the Hyuuga main house has been forced upon you. You have always hated yourself for your own weakness. But people cannot change…that is destiny."
"People cannot change, Kurenai-chan. That is destiny," Hizashi said, looking away from her. "I cannot be different than what I am. You cannot be different than what you are. We cannot be what we want to be."
Anger rose in her. "We don't have to be controlled by our families, Zashi-kun. Don't you love me? Tell me you don't and I'll accept it! But I won't accept an excuse of fate!"
Hizashi turned and took her by her arms. Deep sadness was in his eyes. "I am destined to die, Kurenai. That is my fate and I won't fight it. The branch family protects the secrets of the Hyuugas. My wife already died for the head family. I won't let that happen to you, and I won't leave you a widow in the branch family. I love you, Kurenai, but it cannot be."
Kurenai found that she was gripping the rail harder than before. The metal creaked as she relaxed her hands.
"There is no need to suffer anymore. Let it go," he said finally.
Hinata stood straighter. "That's not true, Neji-niichan," she said, her voice clear, though it carried an edge of pain. "Because I can see it's not me at all."
Neji stiffened as she spoke.
"The person lost and suffering within the destiny of the main and branch houses…is you…"
Kurenai saw him move and her heart stopped.
"Neji-kun! This match is over!" Hayate yelled as he moved to intervene.
Kurenai was not aware of moving until she had stopped, crouched on the stone floor, her grip a vise on Neji's arm. She was aware of Gai behind her and Kakashi to her side. Hayate stood between Neji and Hinata.
It was silent for a moment, until Gai spoke, his voice quiet and serious. "Give it a rest, Neji. You gave me a warm promise not to lose your head over this main family stuff."
She could feel Neji stiffen as if he actually thought he would fight four jounin. "Why do even the other jounins jump in?" he asked sarcastically. "Oh, more special treatment for the main family!"
Kurenai's grip tightened even more on his arm and he looked down at her, hissing in pain. She didn't notice until Kakashi caught her eye and she relaxed. Slightly.
Suddenly, Hinata screamed, and Kurenai's head shot up as the girl collapsed. "Hinata!"
She was beside Hinata in a moment, and, to her surprise, so was Naruto. His blue eyes searched hers anxiously when she caught his gaze over Hinata's prone form. Sakura appeared beside Naruto.
"Hinata! You alright? Hey!" Naruto asked anxiously.
"Her color is bad," Sakura said softly. Kurenai did not think Naruto heard.
Neji's voice interrupted Kurenai's worrying and quick visual examination. "Hey, the loser over there. I'd like to tell you two things." Neji's voice was sarcastic and disdainful. "If you're a shinobi, then cut out the pathetic cheering of others. And one more…in the end, a loser is a loser. They cannot change!"
Naruto was standing now, his fists clenched. "Wanna test me?" he challenged. Kurenai's fists clenched.
Kurenai was crouched at the bottom of her chosen tree, unable to make it further up. Their sensei had long left and her teammates had both done much better than she.
"In the end, a loser is a loser, Kurenai-chan," Hiashi mocked from his perch high in his tree. "And that's what you are. Your whole family thinks that. You're the worst genin on our team. Even Hayate has a better chance, and he's sickly. You should quit as a shinobi!" With that he jumped down and landed in front of her.
Kurenai jumped to her feet and faced the pride and joy of the Hyuuga clan. "Let's find out who's better, Hyuuga!" she challenged, and charged him.
"What have we here? Rookie genin fighting?"
Kurenai nearly gasped when she found her foot in the grip of Maito Gai. The older chuunin smiled at her and released them.
Naruto was racing towards Neji. She found herself rooting for Naruto and hoping no one would stop him. However, she doubted Naruto would survive much longer than Hinata.
Suddenly, Lee was in front of Naruto, holding him back. Naruto made a questioning noise and tried to get past Lee, but Lee stopped him. "Naruto-kun, I understand your feelings so much that it hurts. But the fighting should occur in the matches." Lee paused. "Whether a loser can defeat an elite through the power of hard work, that's something to look forward to in the main test. Though, his opponent might be me," he finished softly. "But even if it is you, Naruto-kun," he added. "There will be no hard feelings."
Naruto relaxed slightly and muttered something. "Alright," he said finally.
Suddenly, Hinata lurched and blood leaked from her mouth. Her breath was coming in uneven gasps and she moaned. Kurenai cursed. Where were those damn medical-nins?
Kurenai put a hand to her heart. Oh no, her heartbeat is erratic…he intended to kill her the entire time! Hot anger coursed through her and she glared at him with all the malice she could manage.
Surprisingly, he laughed shortly. "If you have enough time to glare at me, then take care of her."
Tearing her eyes from the Hyuuga boy, she turned to the approaching medical team. "Medical team! What are you doing? Hurry!" she ordered harshly. She felt Hinata slipping away as she spoke.
"Sorry," one breathed.
They surrounded her, pushing Kurenai back. She glanced at her bloody hands, her heart sinking.
"At this rate she won't last ten minutes! Take her to the emergency medical room! Hurry!"
They lifted her onto a stretcher and quickly stood. "Move!" the leader ordered, and they hurried out of the room.
Kurenai started as Asuma touched her arm lightly. It was an unspoken message in his eyes, but she understood.
Suddenly, Naruto knelt down and put his hand into Hinata's blood, making a fist. His murderous intent as he gazed at Neji was palpable. "You are going down," he said softly, dangerously. Kurenai was sure that the look in his eyes was echoed in her own.
Kurenai sat at Hinata's bedside, wishing Tsunade was here. The doctors were good, but no one was as good as Tsunade. They'd told her that without more talented medical-nins that Hinata would have a fairly slow recovery. The damage to her heart was rather great.
She'd brought flowers, since no one else visited or sent flowers. Her father knew about her condition, but Kurenai had yet to see him. Bastard…
Hinata was still pale, her dark hair a contrast against her face and the white sheets. Her breathing was shallow but steady. Kurenai brushed back some hair and picked up her crossword puzzle. It kept her mind from diving into the past and becoming angry over this incident.
Suddenly, she felt a presence and her lip curled. "She's been in the hospital for two weeks and you can't bother to see her before this?" she demanded quietly.
Hyuuga Hiashi stood in the doorway, his face as impassive as ever. "I had things to do."
She stood and crossed her arms. "I forgot, Hinata is worthless to you now. She is a weak woman for whom you have no use for."
"Don't put words into my mouth, Kurenai!" he snapped, then realized that that was her aim. "And don't force my temper."
They stared at each other in silence, until Hiashi's eyes roved to Hinata. "How is she? What happened?"
"She'll survive. She fought Neji," she answered shortly.
"Neji? She had no chance—"
"She fought well!" Kurenai interjected angrily. "She showed the spirit of a shinobi. He nearly killed her, but she fought on until her heart gave out. They barely treated her in time. One more hit or ten minutes untreated and we wouldn't be here."
"She will never be as strong as Neji though," he said quietly.
"That doesn't mean she doesn't deserve her father's love!" Kurenai shot back, staring defiantly at him.
"Look, Kurenai, I'm sorry things didn't work out between you and Hizashi—"
"Don't bring his name up around me, Hiashi," Kurenai said, her voice low and dangerous. Hiashi brought himself up short. "Fine. Do we always have to fight like this?"
Both were glaring at each other, Hiashi with his arms crossed. Kurenai, though not a short woman, was much shorter than he. But as always, her eyes burned through him.
"Kurenai-sensei?" a weak voice murmured from behind her. She spun around, her arms falling to her sides. "Hinata?" She craned her neck around and gave Hiashi a warning glance. Don't move, she mouthed. He scowled.
"Hinata, how do you—" Kurenai broke off as Hinata began to cough. Blood splattered the white sheets. "Hiashi-san, go get the doctor," she ordered in a tight voice. Hinata's eyes widened slightly at his name, but she could not seem to stop coughing. Kurenai supported her as Hinata put her hands to her mouth. It was a rough, violent cough, and tears leaked down her face. She couldn't stop.
The medical-nins entered and a green glow appeared around one's hand. He slowly waved the chakra on her chest, and finally the coughing ceased. Hinata dropped back to her pillow, exhausted. She was breathing heavily and sweat beaded on her brow.
"Kurenai-sensei, Otosan? I'm…sorry…" Hinata breathed, then fell back into unconsciousness. The doctor gave her a shot through her IV. "This is to keep her asleep. We're going to do this for another week to give her injuries a chance to heal."
"So, you're basically keeping her in a coma for now?" Kurenai asked.
He nodded. "She will heal much faster this way."
One of the nurses changed the bloody sheet and they exited the room. Kurenai was left staring at Hinata, forgetting about Hiashi. Hinata…have you received irreparable damage? You might have to quit as a ninja, unless Tsunade would deign Konoha with her presence. And your father…what does he want? Your father…shit, he's still here.
Ripping her eyes from Hinata's sleeping face, she turned around. "Why are you here, Hiashi?"
He shrugged, looking uncomfortable. Kurenai rarely saw him like that. "I wanted to see Hinata."
"You've practically disowned Hinata. Why do you want to see her?" Her voice was harsh.
"I don't have to explain myself to you, Kurenai."
She bristled. "You abandoned her! She's my subordinate now! I am in charge of her."
Hiashi studied her. "You care about her," he stated. He seemed surprised.
She stared at him. "Of course. She's on my team."
"No, it's more than that."
Kurenai turned back around. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm a soldier. I don't form attachments."
"You formed an attachment to Hizashi."
She whirled. "I hate you, Hiashi," she growled.
"I don't blame you," he said. "They are like you. Hizashi and Hinata. Both were lost in the shadow of their relatives." He paused. "Both deserved better."
"Damn right, they did," she snarled as she turned back to Hinata. "She loves you, you know. She thinks it's her fault. She wonders what she could have done to make you love her, accept her. Unfortunately, she doesn't have what you want."
"And what is that?"
"Cold detachment. She cares about people. Her emotions are close to the surface." Kurenai smoothed Hinata's hair. "She can't help it. But it's undesirable to the Hyuuga Clan. And she thinks it's her fault."
Hiashi was silent. Kurenai sighed and sat down again, picking up her crossword puzzle. When she looked over again, he was gone.
But sitting on the table by the door was a beautiful vase of roses.